The WHO Definition of Health
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a resource that supports the whole society by ensuring the ability to lead a happy and fulfilling life. This resource includes physical, social, and emotional capacities. For example, it encompasses a person’s ability to maintain homeostasis and recover from adverse events. Mental health includes an individual’s abilities to cope with stress and acquire new skills. It also includes relationships and emotional well-being.
The WHO’s definition of health is the most general: the absence of disease. If health were defined by absence of illness, then promoting health would mean eliminating or reducing the number of people suffering from disease. A more detailed definition would consider a person’s functioning, including the ability to deal with stress. Regular exercise can also improve a person’s capacity to cope with stress. By advancing this perspective, the WHO’s Healthy People 2020 campaign seeks to change the world by transforming communities around the world.
The World Health Organisation originally defined health as the absence of disease. However, this definition was not fit for purpose today. The new definition places greater emphasis on the person’s capacity to adapt to changing conditions and self-manage their health. In this new model, the concept of health is defined by a person’s capacity to cope with stress, adapt, and recover from illness. The WHO definition is also more ambitious, with a focus on prevention and rehabilitation.